Monday, 10 December 2007

Welcome to the Leopard...

I remembered way back to my years when I was introduced to the wonderful world of computers. As I was growing, I was using word processors on my good ol' Apple II (yes this predates the Apple IIe). Geez that brought back fond memories. Some of the things I remembered include:
- Having a dot matrix printer which printed mainly text. The ink was mainly a purpley grey colour and geez it was a such a big step up from 1) typewriters due to the correct one's work and 2) handwritten assignments.
- The monitor was isolated to a monochrome colour of green or orange.
- Games were very sparse and limited to what could fit onto a single 5.25" floppy disk. These included the likes of Load Runner, Frogger, Hard Hat Mack and Chess (and I found it hard to beat until many years later).

It wasn't until a few years later that we decided to go the PC route, with the whole line of 286, 386, 486, Pentiums....many, those were interesting times while playing in colour (VGA anyone?). At that point I had never really thought about buying another Apple computer, even after being introduced to them at school. Funnily enough, I believe that this coincided with the change in the helm at Apple...

Well, I never though that it would happen so soon, but I am back in the realms of Apple-dom, as I have gone out and got myself a MacBook. The main driver here is that I don't get given a laptop as part of work any more, so I thought it would be more handy and convenient to have a laptop (especially with travel and so forth). I can safely say that I am really enjoying this laptop, even though I am not entirely familiar with the Mac Operating system, but I'm sure that I will pick it up soon enough.

So far, things I do like about the MacBook:
- Decent specs and build quality for comparably spec'ed laptops and reasonable size. (e.g. built in wireless, bluetooth, camera, firewire)
- Small enough to travel with, without being too bulky (esp. for planes). Luggage space is definitely a premium!
- Wireless N - although I don't have a wireless N router...yet.
- Magnetic power cord - no more tripping over wires and watching in dismay as one's laptop goes sailing across the room.
- Not bad looking in white
- Boot Camp option allowing the user to run Windows if required (this is great for work based computers, since most companies run Windows based PCs)
- Swish OS (OS 10 and 10.5 - Leopard)

Main downsides to current MacBook:
- Attachments/add-ons are expensive ($69 for a white wired mouse, anyone?)
- Too many attachments are optional (no VGA/DVI cable). I guess the plan is minimalist...
- White gets dirty and scratched easily.
- Less applications support Mac OS...which is a shame really.

I guess there is always room for a change - another Mac convert here! I guess it's still early days though, so hopefully all goes well!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Travel again

Gee, it seems like it has been a while since I last posted. Actually, it has been a while since I last posted.

Recently, I went on a trip for work. I had almost forgotten what it was like to travel intensely - being in three different cities in one day, trying to stay awake for the next presentation while resting as much as possible in between. It was definitely harder than I remembered, but once I was got back into it, it was like second nature.

Unfortunately, my trip was cut from being a two week trip back to one week, due to the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, meaning I didn't get a chance to head over to Chicago and New York. I'm not sure whether such short trips are good or bad - by the time I was over most of the jetlag, I was back on a plane for more jetlag the followng week!

The best part was the fact that I managed to visit another city I had not been to: Las Vegas. It is definitely a city which is very different to any other I had ever visited. With a culture of gambling embedded the whole city seems to revolve around vices. The Bellagio was a nice place - and it brought back memories of watching Ocean's Eleven. I wasn't sure whether I could stand the idea of having such an open gaming floor right next to reception - as though every moment spent outside of the gaming section was a wasted opportunity to make money. Unfortunately, the conference was jam packed full of meetings and the occasional meal, which made it difficult to get some other time in to take in the city. In my mind, I had anticipated that the hotel would exude class, which for the most part, it did. However, I was a little disappointed to find that there was a chapel near the back of the hotel. Surely, this was a slice of market share which could have been excluded from achieving underlying profits? However, all in all, it was a very comfortable place to stay. I have to admit that the rooms are poorly lit - although the conspiracy theory says that it was a ploy to get guests out of their rooms and onto the gaming floors.
There were definitely a bevy of well dressed individuals around the place. As much as others I knew there seemed to spot the "workers" in the lobby, I didn't exactly see any - perhaps my attention was always caught somewhere else.

Surveying the surroundings, there were a whole lot of busy cranes and incomplete properties around the main strip. With such a myriad of hotels and casinos to choose from, I would have thought that there would be glut of supply on the market, making it a tourist market. However, I was surprised to find that occupancy levels are running quite high as well as the fact that every new supply seems to be more than absorbed by the new demand to come and see what the new kids on the block had to offer.

I was lucky enough to be able to fly to LA and spend a night there and catch up with my good friend J. Since she has move to LA, I admit I have been quite poor when it comes to keeping in touch. However, being the truly hospitable type, she took me around and we chatted like old friends which was really refreshing. I guess it is during these times that I feel happy that I managed to tag a bit of personal time on top of a long work trip.

It's good to be back home - I can sleep in, and fall back into the comfort of routine for a while.

Previously, I had traveled with a laptop which allowed me to check emails and do some work while on the road. Unfortunately, a Blackberry just doesn't seem to be that rich in functionality (or, I am not used to operating on such a small device). It did seem a bit weird not being able to check my emails and having to resort to communal terminals. Furthermore, a lot of time is wasted while commuting. (The waiting can be horrendous - especially when I got delayed for around two hours in Las Vegas, and when we taxied out of the gate, there was a queue of around ten planes trying to take off. The person next to me fell asleep and asked, "Are we there already?" Much to his dismay, we hadn't even left the terminal!)

As much as I may have not given much thought to it in the past, I have to say that I am quite happy with my new toy, so I guess that means that I have less of an excuse to not check emails while I am away!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Man, I can't believe September has rolled around. Where has the time gone! I guess so much has happened this year and still happening it is rather strange to see it through my eyes.

I caught up with some friends recently, after taking a bit of a breather from what appeared to be one of the busiest times in the year for me. Checking my calendar multiple times in a day was mandatory as I ran around town trying to make all my appointments. It was definitely a very hectic period. As the slowdown approached the first meeting seemed like such a long time ago. I almost felt lost like, "whoa, what just happened?".

Over the past few weeks, I have learnt much more about myself and started analysing myself in a different way. Sometimes, it is scary how history can repeat itself. Even if you think that it can't possible be, but there is a small section in the brain which questions that. Someone once said to me, "if one thinks that history doesn't repeat itself, then they just have not been around long enough!"

I wonder if it is very difficult for someone to change - or what does it take for someone to change? I wish I could have taken a snapshots in points in my life so that I could run a compare on myself over different stages and see the differential between two points in my life. That would be cool. I wonder if that's why people write diaries so that they one day can look back on that and remember what they were thinking or feeling at a particular day or point in my life. Alas, that can't be done, and my writing habits are pretty loose (just take a look at the number of posts!). Doesn't help given that I am such a grandpa and sleep before 12am....

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Notepad Scribbles #20070729

Geez - I have not had time to do much except work these days, and I am sure that it is just going to get a whole lot busier around the corner, but I guess I am inherently lazy, which is why I have not blogged in a while. I have not been checking my emails as regularly as I should, which has been bad.

Events of late include:
1) Facebook: This the whole Facebook phenomena, which is pretty much connecting so many people. I have managed to get in contact with people which I have not seen in over 10 years, which is quite scary. It is a easy and succinct way to get to know what people are doing, even across the years and different locations. No, I am not an addict. Yet. Let's hope that they don't get closed down too quickly!

2) New addition: Well, I finally took the plunge and bought it. Yes, I know I had been looking at it for a long time, but I like to take my time. Have tried it a couple of times, and am almost going deaf from the sound it makes...but it brings such great joy when it flies off the club well, it is worth the wait. I can't wait to start playing more golf and getting better!

3) Too much of a good thing: Have been going to a few lunches of late. Someone asked me whether I would get sick of going out to lunches all the time and will the thrill and novelty of going to those places wear off. In a way, I think it will definitely wear off at some point or another, but at the moment, I can't say that I am complaining much....has anyone seen the prices of going out to eat lunch??? It is definitely good taking in lunch on the other days.

4) More than meets the eye: As if I would not have been a fan of Transformers as a kid. I loved them although I never really watched the cartoons that often as I was not allowed to watch TV in the mornings and Saturdays...*sniff*. The best part was FINDING my old Transformers. It sure brought back some good memories. I had Grimlock and Jazz...

Of course I remembered how to transform Grimlock!

5) Turning the tables: Lately, I feel that other people are doing all the travelling and I am the one who is static and not really going anywhere! It does feel rather strange as it appears that the tables have turned somewhat, but I guess everyone else is now deciding to fulfil their dreams and getting out there and chasing what they want which I think is absolutely wonderful. It is always good to see people after they go away for some time and can pick up where one has left off.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Winter blues

I am really starting to dislike the trek into work every morning. Not because I am getting into work rather early, and feel like a grandpa at 10:30pm every night. It is neither because there may not be express buses that early nor is it because the bus driver takes off when they can clearly see you walking towards the bus. My biggest dread is picking up some really nasty cold/illness on the bus.

This winter has been pretty cold and there are a lot of people who don't sound or look like half a picture of good health. But that is not the problem - of course all of us have been sick before, so not offense to those who are sick. The problem lies in the fact that they are inconsiderate to those around them Here is a small cross section of the individuals on the bus taken at snapshots over the last couple of weeks:
NB: In order to protect individuals, aliases have been used

Phlegm Thrower - One can almost hear their chest infection, heck even I could do a spot diagnosis. This person has decide that they have a lot of phlegm and decides to cough it up on the bus (hand over mouth is optional, of course). No I don't think it is great to do it on the bus, but if you really have to DO NOT open up your tissue to check what colour it is!

Sniffles - Obviously this person has decided that sniffling is the best option due to the lack of convenient tissues/handkerchief/saturated sleeve. Probably rates higher than phlegm thrower, but if this persists, can develop into the next phlegm thrower. They keep "sucking it in" as though nobody around them can tell and wiping with their hand. Remember where they have touched...

Whoopie - No, not Whoopi. This person clearly has a whooping cough and is sadly going to retain the cough for around 90days. Unfortunately for you, they sit right behind and one can feel the gale force winds blowing around the back of the head.

Billows - Here, they blow long and hard and thankfully have spare tissues. Sadly, their pyramid of tissues starts to grow and handily spills over to the person next to them - you.

Sneezie - Think Whoopi, but with liquid spray. And they sit opposite instead. Enough said.

In any case, I have been sick and caught public transport (like in Japan), but seriously, some people really need to think about the population which is still healthy and be a bit more conscious. At least they are not serving me food at the takeaway store at lunch...

Anyway, wouldn't it be so much better to be in a place where it is summer now? Yep, I would love that. *sigh*.

The good side to all of this is that I can pull our the winter jackets and tops I bought last year and actually make good use of them!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Must. Have. Now.

With the turbulent weather experienced lately, I was happy to try and stay indoors over the weekend. Again.

As some of you may know, I am a bit of a hack when it comes to golf, so I need every little bit of help which I can get. Today, I decided to head out to take a look at a golf store, since they have a sale whenever there is a PGA major being played. Ahh - I still remember when I picked up my current set of irons from the exact same store in 2004.

Of course, given that a quick 3 years have already passed by, the clubs of old had been superseded with the latest equipment - all offering variations of "further distance", "greater control", "better feel". Being more consumer than advertiser, I was keen to lap all these key words, brainwashed somewhat as I covered almost every square metre of the store in hopes of finding that critical piece of equipment which would allow me to play like Tiger Woods, while practising like Norm from the Life Be In It advertisements.

It was then that I spotted a club which I had been eyeing for a quite sometime, but had vowed to get better and take some lessons before purchasing. Ignoring the fact that I had not gotten any better since the last time I had seen the club, I was attracted by the fact that the price had been drastically reduced (yeah, who doesn't like a bargain eh?). I asked a helpful assistant about the price and he explained that the companies typically release a new set every 12-18mths so the discounted price will be there to stay until the new clubs are released.

This got me thinking about the mentality I had just experienced. Sure, I could put it down to the whole weather thing, but the buyer's mentality is very much a "here and now" mentality. I was thinking to myself, had I bought this club some 18mths ago and paid full price (i.e. over $500) would I have had much more satisfaction than if I had bought it today? As a function of our society, with a constant stream of new gadgets/tools/technology being released and at decreasing costs, it's rather interesting to see a real compelling reason to be an early adopter? I guess if I were in that industry then I would understand (heck if I had Tiger Woods breathing down my neck, the last thing I would want to do is "do a Greg Norman" to speak). But the question is, "Is it ever really worth it to be in a must-have-now mentality?"
Yes, it would have probably saved me some skins (not to mention countless golf balls), I am tempted to think it is worth the wait.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Love it or hate it

I remembered back to my days as a Year 10 student on work experience, when my "employer" said to me, "With this, you either love it or hate it. It's very difficult to do it day in and day out dreading to go to work".

I have to admit it has been a whirlwind of a first month at my new job and I can only see it getting a harder rather than easier. The problem with each day is that it is rather full on and time management is critical - I barely have enough down time or personal time. Perhaps it is trying to get up to speed with everything which has been happening.

A typical day would be between 7:45am to 6pm. Those around me would be able to attest to me being traditionally a late night person (playing computer games until 7am and then going to work anyone?) rather than an early riser, but in order to get on top of things, I have had to adapt to very different working hours than before. The problem is that once I have trained myself to get up early I find it difficult to sleep in on the weekends so now I am nodding off at 10pm (I have now earned a "grandpa" status).

Furthermore, the day is so jam packed with activities and interruptions that I hardly have time to do anything or concentrate on the things which I need to get done (which is a sure source of frustration). I admit that I have been struggling to catch up with all the readings I need to do.

On the flip side, there have been some real positives with this transition.

It was great to get to know the team last week. Although I was only in Chicago for three days it was a great team bonding exercise as well as a great way to put a face to the email address. Only sour point of the trip was that our bags arrive a day after we did, but luckily it was on the way home.

Meeting new people has always been a rather daunting task for me (being an introvert). However, it is something I have been doing rather regularly over the past month and it has been quite a challenge trying to remember people's names. One of the most interesting persons I have met over the last month was on the plane from Sydney to L.A. (He was previously a criminal lawyer in Melbourne before moving on to the pub industry which were later sold off to a large brewery. He moved back into pubs, but in regional area, and is now in the film industry - I believe that he worked with Mel Gibson on The Passion of Christ. Talk about a career change!).

Being more of a fence sitter, I think that it is forcing me to become more decisive - hard to believe, I know.

It's also strange to see things which I learnt being applied (since I have not applied much of my schooling to my job). However, I can really see how applicable my uni and post graduate studies have been. I think it's time to dig out some notes!

This week I had orientation and meeting people around the organisation has really been quite interesting and inspirational in terms of their passion. My only fear is that six months later, will the gloss wear off and I can't stand waking up early and going to work? Who knows?

But for the moment, to quote a famous phrase, "i'm lovin' it"

Monday, 14 May 2007

Notepad Scribbles #20070514

I've gotten pretty busy of late, especially with the new work as I try to bridge the knowledge divide between myself and the rest of the team. It has definitely been an interestingly learning experience as well as an interesting way of learning, but the most important thing is that I am enjoying myself - something which I have not done in a while. One of the distinct advantages is being a client - so getting treated nicely is such a welcome change to being a provider of services all the time. Furthermore, it feels different when I have my own desk - it is a welcome change to be able to leave things at work and see the same people almost daily. The flows of people coming and going made it difficult to keep up with the people in the organisation. I guess the novelty at the moment is that everything is new - not sure how much shine will be lost once things are the same.

In my quest to try different things, I recently went bowling. For those who have been bowling with me, they can attest to how I am absolutely atrocious when it comes to actual bowling (rather than simulated bowling on video games consoles). The challenge was that there are more variables such as smoothness of the shoes, how slippery the indentations for the fingers are and of course fatigue. My highest score has been 153 but need to spend some serious time in there to get good at it, which is something I am not prepared to do - I am quite happy to be a pure amateur!

It is not easy to do well in something - it does take a fair bit of time and dedication. To be honest, I am not sure whether it is better to be a specialist, or a jack of all trades (but master of none). Many of my friends who are working are specialists of sorts - from mechanics to accountants - they have specialised in a particular area and flourished in each of the areas which they have chosen.

I suffered when I tried to play a variety of different sports in one week. Unfortunately, the skills and muscle groups required in each are very unique therefore never quite complementary, resulting in a difficulties in trying to adjust. Now I have decided to concentrate my sporting portfolio to maximum of two different main sports and play competition in only one of them. The jury is still out on my approach though...

Unfortunately, due to early morning meetings, I have had to adjust to becoming a more of a morning person - something which goes against my core hobbies of gaming and watching television. It has been a rather painful adjustment. Although, recently, I pulled a couple of all nighters (playing MahJong and watching a Korean series of course) and I was absolutely SHOT the next day. My brain function had moved from zero to negative and I was a zombie. I had never been so zoned out and it took me a while to recover from it. I scoffed when I was told it was because I was getting old....

*yawn* given that it's already 9:30pm I think I might have to call it a night...

Tuesday, 1 May 2007


It was my first job, so many years ago.
What to expect? - I really didn't know.
Straight out of uni, all eager and keen.
A trip to Chicago - it was the first time I had been.
After that I was in Hong Kong for a bit,
And then in Melbourne, I did fit.
While in KL I caught up with relos,
Then went to Glasgow with a couple of the fellows.
Back to Melbourne for a year and a half,
Looking back at those photos makes me laugh.
Flew home to Sydney before Bangkok,
then off to Singapore - it was such a shock.
Coupled with making friends on the booze,
With tight deadlines there was no time to snooze.
With six months off, thrown in for good measure,
The experience gained is something I'll treasure.

After many years, I can't believe it's goodbye.
With a hand on my heart and a deep breathed sigh.
"Thank you to all who made the job so much fun,
But somehow I feel my job here is done.
Make sure to keep in touch and take care,
Now it's time to see what else is out there".

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Notepad Scribbles #20070426

The last four weeks have been great - short weeks (since I had training as well last week) which has broken up the monotony of just going to work.

Lately, I have tried some new things, so I was determined to watch another AFL game. Thankfully the Swannies won against the Brisbane Lions. There was a time when we were down, but we showed spirit to come all the way back! Go the Swannies! I didn't realise that the AFL was very formal, insisting I go into the member's area wearing a collared shirt. Luckily, I was prepared. The low point of the day was trying to get out of the parking lot at the end of the was absolutely choc-a-block with random cars cutting in.

Recent movies have included:
- 300
Mixed feelings about this one. There was plenty of gore as well as buff, testosterone laden males. Storyline was rather predictable but interesting animations and interpretation of the Spartan tale.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Ahh. This definitely brought back memories. I forgot how non-violent TMNT was, since it was more PG rated. The turtles looked interesting since this time, they had more flippers than forearms. Animation has very nicely done, but it had a rather predictable storyline (don't expect a Miyazaki film or anything like that)

Given the horrible weather, it was decided that we should try indoor rock climbing. Little did we know that a lot of other people seemed to have the same idea (shows how original we are!)
After getting the crash course in securing the clips, I decided to try some "confidence builders". I was feeling ok and due to the sheer number of people, I decided to try some more difficult ones...and I was struggling. Unfortunately, I have a small fear of heights (ok, make that a big one) and I have a very large apprehension to falling off. Some of the little pieces were very difficult to hold onto and I just could not bring myself to step onto the next ledge without any support. I did manage to go up a few of the easier ones which was encouraging. Worse part was when one of the items was loose, so when I went to grab it, it spun and I scrapped my fingers as I was off balance. I also fell off and hit the wall. Not too bad though - it was definitely a fun experience (my arms were feeling weak by the end of it).

I also recently tried some face recognition technology. One of the fun features was checking out which celebrities have a resemblance to me. Strangely, a lot of females came up in that list - I wonder if that is a hint??? Maybe I need to take some lessons from those Spartans in 300? In any case, such technology, which I thought would be quite intensive in processing, has now become commercially viable which is great. I still remember the days of the good ol' 286 computers which had monochrome screens and those big 5.25 inch disks and having to allocate memory to upper memory blocks.

Today, I was going through my email archives and thinking back to all the emails I had received over the last few years. I was trying to find some people's addresses and realising that I never really updated my address book which is rather disorganised. Note to self - must start using address book features and update it periodically! **Must be more organised. Must be more organised...**

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

First Impressions

During my schooling years, I learnt proverbs, one of which was "Don't judge a book by it's cover". I thought that it was fair enough and was willing to give everything a fair go. I tried to look beneath the face value and lift the veil to see what was behind.

Fast forward a large number of years and unfortunately, it seems like either I have changed dramatically or the world has changed, but it seems that first impressions do count. They count for a lot more than I imagined. Hmm, perhaps that should be put down to my naivety. In all honesty, there are many instances where first impressions are undeniably important - even though we are taught not to judge a book by it's cover, I think it is something which is inbuilt into all of us. I'm sure that at one stage or another all of us have passed a fleeting judgement on a first impression - whether it be that stranger who decided to strike up a conversation, looking for property or looking at people on the street - in some form or other, judgments based on first impressions are a fact of life. In fact, most of the people in my survery (albeit a relatively small sample size) have remembered their first impressions of the people they went out with. From the, "I hated the shirt he was wearing" to the "He looked depressed", that fleeting moment of first impressions could have gone either way.

In fact I have found that it is common to be in situations where there is a limited amount of time to give a first impression. It could be in an interview, or meeting new people; work or social context. Given the choice, I'm sure most people would choose to give a good impression than a bad one.

Therefore undeniably, first impressions and "covers on books" matter quite a fair bit in our society, as much as many would dispute that point. Therefore, given that humans are inherently judging creatures, it would make sense to make sure that one makes a good impression when it is us who are being judged by others. Heck that makes all of us that little bit more self conscious, especially if being judged with our partners. I know I would be conscious about being labelled an "odd couple".

So with the proliferation of female magazines and fashion stores, it is quite a bit easer for females to find the goods listed in them. One of the major problems when shopping with girls is that 90% of the stores cater for females more than males. Secondly, if there is a "Mens Section" it is usually confined to a single rack for the entire store. Such a blatant disrespect fo the male ability to spend leaves me in utter bewilderment. As males embrace being more metro, the rate of growth of male targetted goods has not really grown in proportion to meet the market. Thankfully I found a new website called Mens Flair. It provides a lot of useful tips and hints. It may not be very good, but until there is more competition, I guess I will have to settle for this in the meantime.

Anyway, time for me toperform my pre-sleep routine....

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Pick me up

Sometimes, when I wake up I really feel out of sorts. I know that it is going to be that kind of day when one or more of the following happens:
- I feel really reluctant to drag myself from the warmth of the quilt on a cold morning
- I see the bus pull away from the stop as I sprint for it AND the bus driver deliberately drives off
- And it's the last express bus into the city and I'm late.
- It's raining and a car splashes me as it drives passed
- It's raining and I have no umbrella
- I forget my access pass
- I feel super tired and my thoughts are not coherent
- Still feeling the effects of drinking the night before

I could probably go on, but that's are the annoying ones (apart from the public transport gripes). It's at this point, as I drag my already weary feet into work, flop into my chair and stare at the computer, that I realise that I need a pick me up. Sure - I had only been into work for less than 20mins, but that's enough for me. I grab my wallet and head for the door (not forgetting my temporary pass as well) and make a beeline for my coffee haunt. As one of my colleagues said - "I'm useless until I have my coffee".

Now that I am back and working in the city, I needed to test the waters and establish my place in the barista's hierarchy. I had a favourite coffee place in Melbourne while I was there for two years - good ol' Beetroot. Whenever I walked in, they would know my order and also know that I would take a muffin. It was these little things that made the whole customer experience worthwhile - just ask John Singleton...

As much as I don't like to admit it, it's all about building that relationship up. Of course my wage rate doesn't quite allow me to afford $50 coffees, but I want a barista to remember that I forked out $2.50-$3.50 (depending on how much of a pick me up I need) and given that I am there almost daily, at least make an effort to say hello and try to remember my order (especially since I am not salary sacrificing my coffees).

For a while, I was deciding who will make money from me. Unfortunately, only baristas around my area will be in the shortlist. None, however are like my favourite Beetroot in Melbourne though!
One barista does a pretty good moccha, while the other one does a much better latte. I swayed to the latte as it tastes less like chocolate milk and therefore less filling by the time lunch rolls around. Both places have respected me in their hierarchy, although some more-regular-customers-than-me come in and sometimes jump the queue, which is frankly damn annoying (although I used to be do that...hehe). Furthermore, my new barista also runs table for twenty in Surry Hills, so that's a plus. Well, now that that is sorted out, I can go back and slog out the next 8 hrs....

Monday, 2 April 2007

Notepad Scribbles #20070402

Although the first three months of the year have flown by, I am extremely happy with what has happened over the last few months.

Apart from going to a place where I had always wanted to go (i.e Japan) I also recently went surfing. I managed to get an awesome tan (which is still with me) and learnt how to surf at Avoca Beach. Interestingly enough, I managed to stand up on the board even for a few seconds (probably overestimated as well). I got dumped a lot and drank bucketloads of water....but it was pretty thrilling. The worst part of it all was seeing little kids mastering the waves and riding the waves in while I was often left paddling hard through the water - only to realise I had not even moved!
Fortunately, the water was quite nice, the waves were often tame enough not to feel overwhelmed and there was a beginner friendly sandbank which allowed me to stand a fair distance from the beach without having to find my balance on the board. That was definitely an advantage as I could push off when I saw a wave coming.

The funniest moment of the day was when I was resting on the beach after being dumped pretty hard into the sand. I watched as my "instructor", M, went out and she kept drifting out to where the "pro" surfers were. I thought, "Wow, so competent. Maybe she is going to get serious now". Little after I thought that, I realised all was not good as she was continuously dumped hard by waves - at one point with two feet in the air as she was flipped by a massive wave. I thought, "OMG! Maybe I should head out!", however I noticed she was drifting in, so all was good.
"OMG - I thought I was about to die!" she spluttered as she came out.
"Oops - I was going to go out but thought you were going all pro surfer!" I replied.
Next time, I guess I will know.

With all this much fun, this has led me to serious consideration in buying a wetsuit - not just for surfing but for snorkelling.

Interestingly, all the people I have told this story to were very surprised that I actually went surfing. Admittedly, it was not my idea (thanks M!) but is it because I don't seem the type to go surfing? I'm not entirely sure.

One of the other fun things I have experienced this year was to attend my first AFL game - Sydney Swans vs West Coast Eagles. We kicked off the night with a small BBQ (two hotdogs was not enough) but this was closely followed by an ice-block and then straight into the game. The game itself was exciting (although longer than I thought - didn't realise that they played almost 1/2 hr quarters) and apparently much closer to a Grand Final replay than many Swannie fans were looking forward to - another West Coast Eagles a measly one point.
It was a tremendous fight back by the Swans, but I felt that they let this one slip as they had too many missed goals in the second quarter. In any case, I am definitely still supportive and can't wait to see the run to the finals! Go Swannies!

Also, my 5 mths of sabbatical are over! I'm back at work and strangely, some things seem like they have not changed at all.

As I inject all these changes in my life, I really hope that this all works out positively and that I don't regret any of the decisions I am making. **fingers crossed**.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Trip Update

So I have decided to get off my backside and upload some photos from the Japan trip here. Unfortunately, I have a lot of photos on my sister's laptop, so will need to wait before I can get all of those photos off as well.

Japan was definitely a really good experience - from the great food, the really polite people and the presentation of everything.

Day 1
The Japan trip was a quite a lot of fun - my sister and I got to Narita at around 2pm and it took as till around 5pm to get to our hotel in Akasaka! We went out for dinner and that was just some really, really good food at Gonbachi (?). Yum...can't forget the melt in the mouth beef and awesome duck. We then ended up at Shinjuku for some late night shots, but amazingly, there were still heaps of people around!

Day 2
The next day, was exploration of Tokyo, so managed to head out to Ginza for some Kyushu ramen, before heading into a toy store and finding some really cool items! I can't believe we spent 2hours there! Following that we ended up going to Akihabara to check out the electronics - there was definitely a lot to see and we managed to eat some takoyaki off the street (which was delicious) and then to a Japanese restaurant where we tried a whole heap of skewers and a sashimi boat.

Day 3
The third day was a killer - having to wake up at 4am to get ready to go to the fish markets. Not only was I tired, but it was cold. The fish markets were a beehive of activity, even at 6am. So was the fruit market - where we got lost trying to search vainly for the fish market. After some pointing and walking we found it! From there we found a sushi store in the fish market area which was PACKED at 6:30am (a majority were tourists though). There, we had a sushi breakfast which was unbelievably good. The fatty tuna just melts in one's mouth (not many people eat salmon over there) and I have to admit, I have never had sushi for breakfast....
This was followed by a quick rest before heading out to watch a tea ceremony where we were treated to two cups of tea and a very intricate ceremony. Thankfully, the lady performing was ok with us taking lots of photos and so this did not break her concentration.

Although other attendees at the tea ceremony decided to go soft and rest up, my sister and I decided to power on to Shibuya (where we picked up our JR rail pass) for some shopping and head through to Harajuku. We walked and took photos where we could, stopping only once for a quick bite to eat at a Danish pastry store in Shibuya. The streets seemed to always be busy and alive with people walking along. After powering through the two destinations, we headed over to Shinjuku and went to the free observation deck whereby we took photos of the sprawling metropolis. It was amazing to see buildings as far as the eye could see. As the sun was slowly setting, the bustle of the city was continued with the gently glow of the night lights which merely accentuated the sheer size of the place. At this point, it had been a long day, so I was very much moved by the idea of a cheeky beer - and boy did it taste good. At 500Yen, I thought it was better than reasonable.
We went back to Shinjuku station to wait for more party members and watched the traffic of the east exit. It was astonishing to see the flurry of people passing through that section of the station - it was much busier than Central on a busier day. I swear there must have been at least a few thousand people who walked past.
The day had not ended and so we decided to have a strange dinner - one which involved eating cheesecake first, followed by a Gyoza city where we sampled a myriad of gyoza types but by the end of it, the music was so annoying, I just wanted to hurt something. Not content with finishing, we then went to the ice cream city to have ice cream - of which I could only fit in a single (but massive) ice cream.
As we tried to search for an elusive ramen store, we ended up on the streets and found an video games parlour. Due to the large ratio of males in the group, it was democratically decided that a stop here would make the group happier as a whole. The drums, Time Crisis 4 and Street Fighter were on the cards, with some challenges thrown in for good measure.
As it was getting late, we decided to head back to the hotel and some of us decided to go out for a few beverages and possibly a ramen. This sounded like a good idea at the time, so out we went to Roppongi for some beverages - and lo and behold, we found the ramen place we were trying to find before - and realised that it was a chain store. Deciding which one to do was not an option - satisfaction was achieved through doing both. We downed some local beers and decided to eat some ramen which was rather unique in that each individual sat at a private booth and there are lights at the front of the place to indicate which seats are available. After buying tokens from a vending machine, one takes a seat at their secluded booth. A piece of paper is on the table with a variety of options such as strength of soup, chilli in the soup etc. Due to my entire lack of understanding of Japanese, I went for "medium" on all options and was duly presented with one of the best bowls of ramen I have ever had (Or perhaps I was really hungry). A meat an noodle refill only cost a total of $10 all up, so I was pretty pleased and decided to call it a night at 3:30am. At this point, I had been up for almost 24hours an the effects were definitely started to hit me.

Day 4
After a hectic Day 3, I was ready to sleep in a little. I missed breakfast and tried to sleep, and got up at around 11am before packing my bags to take to my sister's friend's place as we were checking out the following morning. However, we left the hotel at around 2:30pm and lugged our luggage through to Harajuku to get the JR to our next destination. For those of you who have ever been to Japan, the stations were not designed for carrying heavy luggage (30kgs) nor really designed for anyone with any form of walking disability. Hence by the time we got to my sister's friend's place, it was 6pm. So our plans were canned and we decided to eat at a cheap sushi train - 105Yen per plate. Between the three of us, we managed to fit in 29 plates which only worked out to be around $10AUD each, which was great value. As ramen had been a staple for me over the last few days, I felt a craving so we decided to have a 600Yen ramen which was awesome (but at this stage I was feeling a little bloated). In any case, I knew something wasn't going well when I had developed a cough and a bit of a runny nose. We decided to call it an early night at around 11pm as we had to get out to Hakone the next day.

Day 5
Running late (again), we missed the train but managed to catch the next train to our next destination. By this point, I was coughing almost non stop but I still pushed myself around. It was rather foggy, so visibility was poor, but we managed to see the old cedar walk (which was from Kyoto to Tokyo) and hired a little swan boat which we could use peddle power around Lake Ashi. Following this, we took a pirate ship (I kid you not!) to our next destination. We went up the mountains where the hot springs were. The sulphur absolutely stank but we managed to make it up to the steaming pools of water where eggs were being sold and eating by many. Not wanting to lose out, we also ate some eggs which apparently "postpone" one's life.
As it was pushing 4pm, we decided to head to our Fuji-Hakone guesthouse which was a small guesthouse in traditional style (aka "ryokan") where one sleeps on the floor. Luckily, this place has an "onsen" or hot spring which each room can book, so we enthusiastically booked two consecutive half hour slots - one outdoors and one indoors. After a quick dinner, we headed outdoors and took a shower. The hot water was not very hot and when I came out of the shower, there was still a fair amount of distance between the showers and the actual hot spring. Shivering and wondering how long hypothermia takes to set in, I practically ran to the hot spring and immersed myself in there. It didn't take too long before the heat of the hot spring countered the cold chill of the night and made me feel like I was in a very uncomfortable sauna. "Don't move," my sister murmured as she was trying to enjoy the hot spring. My small pain tolerance was making me get in and out of the hot spring every 5mins, as I found it almost unbearable. As we finished up, I noticed that our bodies were steaming in the cold night as we headed back to our room. Looking at our skin, we realised that it was a bright red colour and in some places, it was peeling! Gross. I didn't realise how draining a hot spring can be, so we decided to forgo the indoor hot spring and call it a night - one of the best night's sleep I had.

Day 6
I hate being sick. I was sick as a dog. As much as my sister wanted to go to the spa resort, I was definitely at an all time low. The running nose and the cough were enough to make me want to just call it quits. However, being such a long way from home I realised that I could not let such a great opportunity go, so I soldiered on. We got up late and had a hurried breakfast before asking the guest house attendee (Yoko) where we could go to see Mt Fuji. She suggested a place and we decided to catch a bus there. So we trundled along in the bus and then went through a small tunnel before emerging on the other side of the hill and there were gasps from people in the bus. I turned and saw Mt Fuji and it was H-U-G-E compared with the surroundings. People were just pulling over on the roadside to get photos and there was even a little restaurant there. I think we spent a good forty minutes there taking shots of the one mountain!
We then headed back to the guest house to pick up our shoulder breaking bags (but not before my sister asked them about a Hello Kitty doll - which they proceeded to give her!). We pretty took the same route back (albeit on a different pirate ship) and to Lake Ashi where this time, we took a couple of snaps with Mt Fuji in the background.
After getting lost a little, we managed to get onto a bullet train heading to Kyoto - and also managed to take some Mt Fuji photos along the way. In all honesty, I don't think that the photos do it any justice - the presence and majestic way it just stands alone is amazing). Getting into Kyoto, I realised how modern looking the train station was. We heading towards the place we were staying at and it was surprisingly clean (except for the unventilated front area where everyone takles off their shoes to swap for stank a little in there, and not just from my shoes).
After a quick dinner, I decided that I had had enough for a day and proceeded to go to sleep - at around 10pm. I was pretty much out of it.

Day 7
I woke up later than usual, but was pretty keen to get the most out of the day. Still feeling tired and sick, we had a quick breakafast before heading out to do some sight seeing. We kicked off the day at Nijo Castle. One of the interesting aspects was the paranoid "nightingale" floorboards which squeak like nightingales when walked upon like a modern day alarm. Different rooms had different purposes and some even had trapdoors where guards/bodyguards would hide. The grounds were well kept and it was really serene just walking through (or rushing through as we were doing).
Next up, we decided to head to the Golden Pavilion. As this was around 3pm, we decided that we were hungry and spotted a MOS Burger chain store on the way. After hearing so much about this Japanese food chain, we knew we could not go to Japan without tasting one. The burgers were quite good and there was a fair bit of variety in the store. I ended up having a meal and downed it in record time.
Off we went to the Golden Pavilion and there were so many people taking photos and posing. Everyone was really polite though so asking people to take photos for us was not a problem. The way the light shone on the place was incredible and definitely something I had not seen before. Again, this place was immaculately kept (esp for a place with no entry fee).
By this stage it was getting dark and we both were not feeling 100% (sorry!) and we headed back to get some rest. The bus trip took forever and I was falling asleep in the packed bus a number of times.
We rested till around 8pm before heading back out to Gion to see whether we could catch glimpses of a geisha. Apparently, this district was a huge geisha district, which was the setting for "Memoirs of a geisha". After walking around and finding the right street we were disappointed to find that the place was rather deserted! To our dismay, many of the shops had closed. We ended up walking down the main strip and feeling dejected we walked back.....only to spot a random geisha sending off a client into a taxi! Unfortunately, we did not get many photos at all and we later learned that it is hard to spot a geisha so we were in luck! By this stage, we were both pretty hungry so we headed off to the recommended eating spots in the area but ended up walking in circles! We ended up at some place where I had a $10 chirashi don which was really nice before calling it a night.

Day 8
This was our last day in Kyoto so we checked out but left out bags there to go off to visit more shrines and check out the tori gates. I don't think I can articulate the sheer number of these gates, but take a look at the photos - enough said.
One of the suggestions we had for a place to visit was a sake brewery, but unfotunately, we had no map with us (or at least our map did not really stretch that far). After asking at the JR station, we headed to our destination stop only to find that it was not "close to the station" as we thought it was so had to ask for more directions at the JR Station. After some sculling hand movements and repeating the words "SA-KE" to her, she ran and got a brochure for us which had a handy map! Thankful for our new found talent in lingustics, we headed off in the general direction of the place. Unfortunately, the map was not so accurate but we managed to find some helpful people who knew where to go. So late in the afternoon we found the sake brewery (which was one of the oldest - since 1600's) and managed to buy some "souveniers" as well. Obviously there was some try before you buy, so that really helped (but did not go too well with the cold and flu tablets I had been taking).
We rushed back to get our bags (but not before some souvenir shopping) and then caught the Shinkansen back to Tokyo.
It was good to be back at our hotel, and we were so buggered we went out for some ramen and called it a night. I didn't even go back to Akihabara to get the joystick I wanted (and I was also sick of lugging so much luggage around).

Day 9
Our final day in Japan. I was feeling slightly better than days 5, 6 and 7 but was rather pleased to be back. We headed off to meet my sister's friend and collect our luggage. We went out to get some realy nice katsu and that was the first time I had known it to be graded. It was definitely very tender.
From there, we repacked our bags to ensure that we could carry things a lot easier without killing ourselves as we had done in the prior days.
As we caught the Narita Express, I was sad that the entire trip had come to an end. As brief as it was, I was impressed with Japan and would definitely go back to see more.
One of the most interesting machines I had ever seen was at the JAL lounge where the beer dispensing machine actually dispenses the beer as well as the head with alarming accuracy.
The plane was packed and so I braced myself for the long flight home.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Eye of the storm


I can't believe my 5 months off has nearly drawn to an end....with only 2 weeks remaining! Gosh it has just gone by soooo quickly.

Well, since my last post, I had gone overseas to HK. With a favourable exchange rate and some timely sales, it was definitely the season to be lapping up the good ol' cheap HK wares. While catching up with friends, it was good to see that they are all doing well in HK while shopping was heaps of fun! I have almost vowed to myself to never shop in Oz again due to the horrendously expensive goods for quality. I guess I need to exercise more judgement in what I buy over here. While loading up my suitcase was high on the agenda, my primary reason for heading over to HK was to attend my friend's wedding. Unfortunately, being the lazy person I am, I have yet to upload any photos of that momentous occasion, however, I vow that this will be down before I step back into the office. In any case, congrats to the newly weds once again and it was definitely an honour to have been invited.

The third and final reason for the trip was to fulfil a long time dream of mine which was to visit Japan. Especially given the fact that I had been exposed to much Japanese culture in anime/manga (who can forget Dragonball, SlamDunk, Akira and Ghost in the Shell?) as well as the gaming and great Japanese food. Hence, I was eager to pay tribute to the homeland of such great thought leadership and culture so had been itching to visit Japan for some time. Due to the timing of things, my little sister and I decided to go before we both started work.
Four major words sum up what I think - clean, polite, respectful, presentable. As with my earlier statement, I will hopefully get off my butt before I start work to do a proper write up of my adventures in Japan and elaborate on what I mean.
In keeping with the influence Japan has had on me, I have decided to adopt a neat and tidy approach to my life, so I have started to do some cleaning around my room....geez it is tough work though.

Coming back to Oz has been great - the weather has been absolutely gorgeous and it has been great to see family and friends again and also play some sport and PS2 (gosh I have missed it!)

So after a whirlwind of activities in two countries, I am back in Oz with a whole two weeks of calm before getting back into the routine of working again. As my hiatus draws to a close, I almost feel like I don't want to work any more, but on the other hand I realise that I have racked up a fair few bills which need to paid off...*sigh*. I wish I could be on holidays forever.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

The last week seemed to be a bit of a blur as it all seemed to have happened all so quickly.

As it turned out, I was helping out with some wedding duties for the last weekend. Due to my availability, I was assigned to driving activities - picking relatives up from the airport, driving around, entertaining and doing wine deliveries.

The rehearsal dinner was at Kensington Peking Restaurant and as I got to order copious amounts of food, I was quite happy. I also managed to meet the grooms-men as well as the mother of the groom. From my brief interaction with them, they seemed to genuine and down to earth - and can can pay each other out. The grooms-men had driven down from QLD the day before and the whip was out as soon as they arrived!

The night before was the fairly traditional combing of the hair in new pyjamas and eating of Chinese desserts. A lot of crazy photos...

Finally, the big day and I was washing the car that very morning to ensure that it was nice and shiny...and so I could see out the windscreen as I was to do some serious driving. There was the usual last minute hectic flurry getting to the church and helping to organise. The ceremony was sweet and the pastor was funny. *ahh*. As the wedding vows were read, I noticed their clear voices which were so confident. No nervousness, no wavering and no nonsense. It was definitely a touching moment.

So I rushed back home to unload all the remaining food, drinks and presents collected. That took around half an hour and I only managed to take a quick shower and get changed before heading off to the reception at Sky Phoenix (but not before realising that we had left a signing plaque at the church so had to go back to pick it up).

I got there late, but still managed to organise the tea ceremony and get it all sorted. *phew*. Being in charge of presents was not really fun, as I had people passing them to me all through the night - even at 10pm! Rushed to the car and plonked down all the presents before finishing off the last few courses. The meal and the speeches were great, and also managed to chat to a few people there - albeit very brief conversations.

By the end of the night, I was pretty darn tired. There was a big dance party happening upstairs, hence the delay in the lift access and I was getting annoyed at waiting - so I knew I was tired.

The next day was a brief lunch followed by hurried farewells due to the rush to the airport.

After seeing the bride and groom off to the airport, I guess I realised that it all hadn't really sunken in that my sister had gotten married and was moving to another state. Even though we had spent the better part of the last few years in different countries and places, I know that we can still talk and have fun times together. I remember growing up together, getting kicked out of the house, learning karate and piano, and going to similar schools and always having an older sister to look out for me. I'll miss those sessions of karaoke, washing up, chilling and chatting, as well as staying up to help me study for my exams. Although, we had our fair share of fights, arguments and tears, I know that we care for each other and want the best for each other. I can rely on her advice, her wisdom and her ability to know exactly what I'm thinking without me having to say it out loud. I guess there are so many great things I can say about my sister and I know that I would have definitely miss some and never really do her justice. I know that we are very similar in many ways. Even when I said that it would be different without her around, she smiled as always and invited me up to visit her.

Thanks for everything and good luck!

Monday, 8 January 2007

2006 2007

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.

Last weekend, I got back from my shortest trip to HK - total of seven days from Christmas Day through to New Years Eve. We hit the ground running from day one, as every day was jam packed full of family gatherings (lunches with relatives, group dinners) and occasionally meeting friends while also squeezing in some rushed shopping sprees due to the limited time. Thankfully, the flight over to HK was alleviated by six complimentary upgrades for my entire family. Managed to celebrate three birthdays (well, technically four if I include Jesus) over that time but I did cut out a lot of shopping (heck I only came back with a suitcase weighing close to 20kg). One can imagine the logistics of organising groups of 27+ for dinners and family outings in HK. On the way back, there was no upgrade, and my did I feel it. However, maximised the usage of the lounge by grabbing some drinks and taking a shower before boarding.

Upon arriving back in Syd, I managed to have an early dinner and then went out to Bradleys Head or some fireworks action. To be honest, I was not as impressed with the fireworks as I had been in the past years, but overall, it was good to get out and about on the first day of the year. Traffic conditions were definitely not ideal upon leaving the vantage point.

Apart from mundane activities, such as being a designated driver as people returned from overseas, I finally managed to get a couple of rounds of golf in - out at Liverpool Golf Course and St Michaels. Both courses have very nice surrounds, but the views at St Michaels can hardly be topped. This resulted in some serious tans as my trusty sunscreen had 2001. Oh well! The bad news is that my swing is still MIA (although I suspect that it was never really in action in the first place). So that is one new goal for the new year...

Also managed to make it out to do some snorkelling and relax at the beach. Unfortunately, there was not a lot to see, but one group of people with a spear and knife managed to get a whole bag full of sea urchins, abalone and fish! It was definitely a sight to see!

Due to my usual tardiness, I went to book flights overseas today - only to find that due to a late Chinese New Year this year, the flights are full from the 11th to the 28th February. Great... This has resulted in some last minute juggling of flights and so forth, but thankfully, all has worked out well. **phew**

So 2007 has already begun, and I have barely had enough time to get used to writing the dates with 2007. I guess the last couple of weeks of 2006 pretty much sum up the entire 2006 - flying in and out of Sydney, a bit of thinking about my future and trying to catch up more with family.

In any case, it's time to put the past behind and look forward to 2007!